Sufficient for the Day

September 24, 2018:

Emma visits Wisconsin. Wisconsin. Wisconsin. What lengths she'll go to for one Phil Coulson.

//A log cabin in Wisconsin. //

It's in the Middle-of-Nowhere, Wisconsin.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions:

Plot:

Mood Music: None.


Fade In…

A Hellscape is a terrible place to keep a man who has been dead for six months.

Sometime after New York got transformed into a strange landscape of demons and…well, New Yorkers…SHIELD came to a decision.

Thus it is that their newly revived asset finds himself sitting on the end of a pier at his family's vacation cabin in Wisconsin. It's been turned into a safehouse by virtue of the security detail, but they're staying out of Phillip Coulson's way.

He's got fishing to do.

And this is where Emma Frost was asked to go. Because, they admit, Coulson's off. He sometimes hallucinates. Sometimes thinks he's some other place and time. Sometimes attacks as if he thinks he's a prisoner. Some pills have helped. Sometimes he knows what he's hearing and seeing is wrong, which results in him just standing there frowning vaguely into space most of the time.

And various meetings with psychologists have brought one fact to life.

Phil is running awfully short on trust.

But he does trust Emma Frost.

Which is funny on a number of levels, but the woman certainly isn’t going to turn down a free ride out of a hellscape.

Her driver was evacuated out of the city, and that has put her in the care of men of a far different skillset to see her through the streets of Manhattan. Emma Frost saw to the last affair that needed seeing to, and then she took full advantage of a ride out.

Sometimes, it pays to keep a bag packed.

When she arrives in ye old cheesehead state, she’s looking as immaculate as ever. Blonde body wave curls spill over her shoulders—the shoulders left bare by the peekaboo sleeves of her frost-hued tunic-length cashmere sweater. Her painted on off-white jeans and slouchy boots of creamy leather complete the autumnal look.

She is slow in her approach to the cabin and inwardly curses the soil that threatens to devour her stiletto heels. But she approaches all the same, with her thoughts flying ahead of her with a feather’s lightness.

« Phil? » It carries with it a subtle infusion of peace and tranquility.

«Hello, Emma.»

The tones carry warmth, and Phil reels the empty line in. Though he bends to pick up an ice chest. It has fish in it. «I've caught dinner, if you like. Not exactly Michelin-rated, but fresh.»

He soon appears, dressed in jeans, heavy boots, a white t-shirt and a plaid shirt. It's so far removed from his normal suits that it almost makes him look a different man, but the exhausted Cheshire Cat smile on his face is Phil enough.

Healthy, moving, alive, but there's something behind his eyes that looks as full of the ghosts he used to be.

Because ‘healthy’ can be subjective.

He offers her fresh caught fish, and Emma’s features contort into an expression of open skepticism. “…alright,” she concedes slowly, warily. To be fair, she can’t cook her way to a meal unless it comes in a little box intended to go straight into a microwave or oven, so her concern about taking it all the way from ‘still swimming in a lake’ to ‘dinner’ seems to be a feat beyond the normal view.

And the woodsy attire should help in that regard, but instead it only draws one eyebrow upwards.

“But only if it isn’t too much trouble.”

Says the woman who loves to fluster others, pays small fortunes to have a fuss made while out on the town.

"Nothing is too much trouble for you," Phil says, with a quirk of a smile. "Can I offer you a glass of wine? I do have them."

He opens the door, holds it open for her. The cabin is rustic, but well-appointed and cozy. It's equipped with all the modern amenities; this is not a place for roughing it, but for relaxation. There's no sign of the security detail here, either. They're all out on the perimeter. They seem to be trying to make Phil forget they're there.

As if.

But there's no sign that he cares.

He sets newspaper on the counter and pulls out two massive fish, laying them down. He gets down to the business of cleaning them, shielding the sight of this exercise from Emma's eyes with a strategic turn of his body.

And suddenly he just…laughs.

"I'm sorry," he says softly. "I am sure a smoother man than I could cover this whole…thanks for keeping my soul in one piece while Nick Fury bounced it all over the god damned cosmos thing a little bit more eloquently, but I find myself at a loss."

“Wine would be lovely,” the lady in white breathes as she walks through the opened door, relief palpable. And she means it. The ride out of New York was harrowing at best, and the bracing booze would go a long way to helping her regain her center.

Not that she looks like its in any jeopardy, if the long and unapologetic stride that carries her to the nearest soft perch is any indication of her state. She settles into a couch, not even trying to look around the agent who eviscerates the fish with an expert hand.

Legs cross, and her arm drapes elegantly over them. She could help, perhaps, but that would draw her nearer to the grisly if efficient work at hand. It doesn’t bother her as much as it probably should — which is to say at all, really — but there are some things with which she’ll play along. He wants to protect her sensibilities; she’ll let him have that.
“I think allowances can be made,” she offers by way of reply, “owed to the singularity of the experience. Unless you are regularly up to this sort of thing. If it was just another Friday night for you, I’m afraid that I’m going to need to be a little more judgmental in my critique.” Her mouth is set in as enigmatic a curve as his is, although there is a warm tone to the turn at least.

Meanwhile, as she speaks, the woman sets herself to work. The effort to extract her out of the New York City limits did come with a rather implicit agreement, and she’ll stick to it. She settles back into the couch and leans her head back. Blue eyes close, and then her mind begins to stretch out.

Gently, like the brush of silk, she considers the edges of Agent Coulson’s own awareness and the changes in the proverbial terrain and surface defenses. Considering that she’s helped with some of the Psychic Training 101, she should be able to perhaps find the markers of her old handiwork.

Unless the butchers at SHIELD destroyed it all.

Phil offers a soft, warm chuckle. Emma, cultured and poised as she is, effortlessly diffuses a situation that was, for him, fraught with tension. She is rewarded for this effort by being poured a very nice vintage of white wine. It's hardly the best wine she's ever had, but neither is it low-end. It's about what one would expect, given Phil's salary and love of good food. Just high class enough not to embarrass.

She does locate some of the defenses she helped him build. But they exist as fragments. Like everything.

The sense that all those orderly file cabinets have been upended and spilled out remains. But now, at least, there's nothing actively kicking the mess around. It's as stable as its going to get on its own. Of course, the file cabinet metaphor hardly covers the deep scars, the open wounds that criss-cross his mental landscape.

Pieces of Phil, here, there, and everywhere.

And while she finds all of the standard waves that exist in a human brain: alpha, beta, delta, theta, she finds…an extra bit. It's hard to say what that extra bit is, only that it strikes her as alien. It keeps surging against the others, a form of interference the conscious mind can't process with any ease, a brainwave it's not built to process under normal circumstances.

Phil is a mess.

Meanwhile, he's making a soft quip. "My Friday nights are usually way more fun, Miss Frost. Even the ones that involve bombs and terrorists."

“Oh, really,” Emma teases back with a sultry tone and a mischievous arching of her brows, although she neither immediately lifts her head nor opens her eyes as the smell of the wine mingles with the smell of raw fish.

Her playfulness quickly dissipates as she makes her first contact with that errant brainwave, and one scarlet-taloned hand lifts to lightly rub along one temple. Then, breaking contact for the moment while she thinks, she returns her interest more outwardly to the elder gentleman. “If you find bombs and terrorists the things of which fun is made, I think you might be working a tad too much, darling.”

Despite having just sat down, the telepath pushes herself back to her feet in order to claim the wine. Adds her Dior perfume to the mix.

“It takes a workaholic to know one,” she continues slowly, with tone carefully measured. She has been exposed to the innermost workings of men for ten years now. The woman doesn't always need to be using her telepathy to get a good read. She watches instead his body language and expression. Listens carefully to his tone. “Although, I suppose it would be a bit disingenuous to pretend as though your coworkers collected me from New York’s present woes out of the goodness of their hearts and brought me here purely for the pleasure of it.”

"Oh, there are other things I find fun," Phil says, loftily. "With the right people, anyway."

It's rare for him to out and out flirt with her, especially as he is pretty sure she's with Tony. But every now and then he'll do it in a harmless way, and now seems a good time for the harmless way.

But the flirtation fades as she explains what she's doing here. He sighs and pours his own glass of wine, deciding he'd better get back to work on dinner while he discusses this.

"I'm the walking came-back-wrong trope," he says, trying to make a joke out of it. "Sometimes…"

He frowns, trying to figure out how to explain it. And then:

"I attacked Peggy Carter you know. When I first woke up. She's one of my dearest friends, but I wasn't seeing her. I saw…1998. Indonesia. A group of terrorists with an alien artifact who happened to capture me and my entire team. So I did…what I did. Sprung up and tried to get us out of there. And it keeps happening. Sometimes it's not as…overwhelming. Sometimes I can hear who I'm standing with, but I can also hear snatches of conversation from years ago, clear as if they're standing right in the room. It's…not good. I can't return to duty like this. Someone would get hurt. They gave me some pills. I don't really know what's in them. Anti-psychotics I guess. They help a little."

Body-language says he is frustrated. Profoundly embarrassed. A little depressed. Angry, not at Emma, but at the circumstances. But he's Phil, so his tone remains mild, and his deft hands continue to scrape the scales off the fish. No electric knives for him. He does it the old-fashioned way, with a knife so sharp it could take one 5 minutes to realize one had sliced a finger.

“It’s not ‘come back wrong’,” Emma offers mildly as she looks down to the wine glass that she takes up and leans nearby. She doesn’t offer to help, but the sight of gutted fish is hardly enough to set her on edge. “It’s come back as you are, and understandably a little changed for the affair. Honestly, I’d be a little terrified if you were able to undergo what you did and then be ready to entertain with scones and tea the next morning when you woke up.”

A pause, and then, “But I am sorry that it is… difficult. I understand the distress of waking up and things not quite being as you left them a little better than most, even if the precise circumstances are a little different.” A lot different. But you build bridges where you can find them.

“And they would go straight for the drugs first, wouldn’t they? The easiest thing.”

Since she doesn't seem disturbed Phil just goes about the work efficiently. Scaling the fish. Deftly removing the head. Creating filets, which he then puts into a baking dish. No heavy fried foods for Emma Frost. He's going to create her a delicate baked fish to die for.

Well. Not to die for.

His lips twitch at the tea and scones, as he adds, "Especially as I've never had a scone I liked."

He nods in agreement about the pills though, and says, simply: "Band-aids. Over a gunshot wound. But applying them makes them feel better, I suppose."

But he looks at her, and asks, "What were your circumstances?"

Just because he has a file does not in fact mean he has dug into every last bit of her life.

There’s a long pause, and Emma looks at the toes of her shoes and her fingers curl a little tighter around the delicate stem of the wine glass. Her voice is soft but even as she says, “I taught once upon a time. More than just headmistress. Not your average students, if you catch my meaning. Everything I ever wanted. But when you’re young,” as though she were 47, not 27, “when you’re still learning yourself and think yourself invulnerable, you make stupid mistakes sometimes. My world crossed their world, and there was an attack.” She sips from her wine, and the frowns deeply as her voice is little more than a murmur as she fights choking on the words. Her voice just grows dark and deep in what some might consider to be a seductress’s tone, were the subject matter at all different. “I was knocked into a lengthy coma, and the children…”

She shrugs without looking up as she barrels on, eager to be done with the uncomfortable confession since she’s halfway in. Her tone is off, conversationally light, as though discussing the weather in the melodic rhythm of easy topics. “So, the funny thing about it is, when you can untether your astral self from your own body, there can be unforeseen… complications. This particular complication was that my body wasn’t ready to wake up, so I found one that was. Went looking for the children, found graves instead. Am still a little foggy about what happened immediately after that, but I did find out that some people do get all manner of riled up when you try to do the decent thing and join your dead students when the body that you’re occupying is not your own.”

An uncommonly deep sip of her wine follows, uncouth as it is but perhaps altogether unsurprising, to drain the portion entirely, and then she sets the glass aside and moves to take the bottle and refill it. At long last, Emma’s head lolls to one side to look at Phil, and her smile draws up with a dark humor. “So touchy, hm?”

She doesn’t wait for the response to come, for her to be labeled the monstrous thing she is, uncomfortable in the rare vulnerability. Instead, she quickly pushes on and takes her generously refilled glass back to the ready position.

“Anyway. All done and past.” Said in the manner that makes it abundantly clear that it’s not, but that she has no desire whatsoever to talk any more about it. “It’s not quite the same, but there are similarities enough for me to have a vague inkling and afford a certain sensitivity to a little confusion and astral travel, I think.”

There's no sign from Phil Coulson that he sees her as a monster. His eyes do all the talking. They display nothing but empathy. He doesn't interrupt, and when she makes it clear she doesn't want to discuss it any longer he doesn't poke at it any longer, other than to attempt to gently touch her shoulder and give it a squeeze. Silent support, in lieu of trying to offer reassurances that may come across as hollow, useless platitudes. Which might, in truth, be little more than hollow, useless platitudes.

"That's fair," he says, all the more soft-spoken for the revelations. "Thank you." For sharing, for clarifying, but he won't touch it further than that.

Instead, he goes about the business of getting the fish seasoned and buttered so it can go into the oven. Washes his hands, cleans up the cleaning-the-fish mess, and starts pulling out what he'll need for the side, which in this case looks like it's going to be a rather brilliant fresh salad.

When he touches her shoulder, when he gives empathy she in no way deserves, Emma’s infamous masque of endless poise and effortless deflections wears catastrophically thin. Her eyes reflect something altogether different back at him—uncertainty and distrust. She deserves no kindness in the wake of a confession that is tantamount to child murder by many accounts, where none account is more damning than her own.

She shrugs a moment later, blink and you’ll have missed what came before. She chuckles, more afraid of the silence than the sound’s lying warmth and casual note of joviality. “Of course,” she replies. For what else is there to say?

“So! Instead of simply insisting that you've never had scones until you've tried the ones my butler makes—which you haven’t, by the by—I am going to suggest that you tell me if you’ve something in mind that I can do to help you.”

And indeed, now it seems as if he is pretending the moment did not exist too. He is adept at that game, as with many.

He spends a moment chopping a gorgeous farmer's market tomato, a huge thing that looks more purple than red, and considers. SHIELD had the idea she could help, but he certainly knows what's going on in his own head.

And while he is in no way capable of prescribing his own cure with any ease, he does ask, "Do you think you can find why it's happening? All this blurring of past, present, and future? All these points where my mind seems to be…skipping like a record?"

For Emma to admit she already has a pretty damned good idea of where to start pointing her finger would be to admit that she had done some preliminary snooping, and that will not be happening today. There have been admissions enough.

“I like to think that if it can occur within the confines of the human mind, I can shed light on most mysteries.” She is confident to the point of arrogance in that regard, and that is yet unshaken… not all of it undeserved. She may not be the world’s premier psychic, but she is numbered among a small and lofty few. To hear her tell it, she simply knows herself very well.

“We can wait until after dinner to get started.” Admiring her shoes after Frost moves to an out of way stretch of counter to lean her hip against, the woman feigns transfixiation with their pristine rounded leather toes. “I think it safe to say that there were certainly some things that could have been put back together more neatly. I am in no rush to be back to New York.” Let the heroes be heroes without her. They don’t want her around, and that suits her just fine. “We could start there. Get the foundation set.”

She sips deeply from the glass in her hand, and her eyes close as she savors the first real touch of the alcohol’s warmth. “We don’t need to rush along any faster than you want. I know how to take my time.” A corner of her mouth pricks upwards, twisting her expression back to the comfortably devious at the note she strikes. Her tone is downright playful as she continues on, finding again that harmless flirtation that laughs at the gravity of the work to come. Of the challenge that the strange and misplaced wave from earlier will make itself.

“We can light some candles… Draw the curtains… Make it a very memorable experience.”

Phil flashes a warm grin as she flirts right back with him, right down to one that's downright momentarily wicked when she says she knows how to take her time, even though his next words are, "I've got a very nice guest room, and you are welcome to stay as long as you like, and not just because you are here fixing my brain, though that is vastly appreciated of course. Everyone can use a break, time to time, and it's a far cry from New York. And the WiFi works well, should one need to touch base."

Waiting till after dinner seems to suit him. From the twinkle in his hazel eyes, so do candles and drawn curtains, though he doesn't seem likely to try make a move beyond their verbal dancing.

There's a bit more cheer as he slices into a cucumber. "And now for an important question: is the lady quite alright with an olive oil and balsamic vinegar toss, or shall I lay out other dressings? It's only the good stuff I assure you, not from the grocery but from the Fox Point Farmer's Market. Which they in turn import straight from the better spots in California, since olives aren't exactly a Wisconsin specialty."

Cheese is though, and after a moment's thought he brings some of that out, deftly putting together a platter of cheese, crackers, and grapes for her to snack on while the fish bakes, should she so desire.

He is a host in all the ways that she is not, self-sufficient in his whirring about the cabin’s kitchen with an honesty that Emma never really bothers with in her own entertaining.

Except the fruit and cheese part. That is basic enough for even her charring doom touch in the kitchen to offer some measure of grace.

Not that she offers to help though. Phil is managing just fine. She twists grapes off with deft fingers. Makes a show of consuming them. “If you like the guest room…” The tease continues, made in the way she trails off.

But then she lets it go. “The lady trusts the gentleman in his choice, and pleads a woeful ignorance with regards to Wisconsin and its commerce.”

After a less salacious bite of fruit, she looks to the wine. “Let’s not call it ‘fixing’. That carries all manner of negative connotation for your state of being right now. Likens me to common cobblers or corrupt casino captains.” And she is condemned as corrupt by a number of sources, but no source so bold as to dare call the exquisitely composed telepath common.

“You are a survivor. Not some broken thing.” She sips, and then she looks back to Coulson with gravity and threat in her gaze that belies the vixen’s smile that yet turns her painted lips upwards in a subtle curve. “Do let me know if someone suggests otherwise, hm?”

Emma's salvo about the bedroom has him missing a step. Because the flirting between them has always struck him as light. Harmless. A game with no real objective other than to enjoy the game. He has never made anything that sounds like a real proposition as a result. To his memory, scrambled as it is, neither has she. Further, though he's a little unsure how serious it is, he'd always thought she was sort of with Tony, who is in fact a friend.

He is in fact a red blooded man who enjoys providing a good time in the bedroom, who does in fact genuinely care about Emma to the point where he's even let himself love her (though whether he is is in love with her is a matter of debate; these are, after all, two different things), and who has definitely been dead awhile. It's this latter part of him that has hazel eyes searching her out.

If she is at all touching his thoughts now she'll find a man carefully trying to decide if she is just saying such things out of habit, for the fun of it, or for genuine interest. Trying to weigh, too, whether he could harm her by attempting to take her up on it if there is something there. Trying to decide if he'd be betraying the friendship between them, crossing a line with her that she needs him, of all people, not to cross. Someone as beautiful as she is, elegant and cultured and intelligent, must surely deal with her share of being objectified, treated with far less than the care she deserves, pursued when she'd rather not be. Would such a thing leave her feeling cared for, warmed, delighted? Or would it leave her feeling empty?

It is a riddle he can't solve. It is his job to read people, but sometimes there are things which can't be gleaned, especially when one is too close to the situation. So he errs on the side of caution…

Only to hear her saying something that brings a moment of unshed tears to his eyes. It touches him. The bit about the common cobbler brings a twitch of amusement to his lips, too, but both her insistence that he is not at all broken and her implied willingness to defend him from such comments brings a surge of warmth. "My lady is wise," is what he says aloud, even as he tosses the salad with the oil and vinegar.

Now he washes his hands and sets about setting a table for two, and, perhaps with a bit of cheekiness, he does light the three fat candles in the centre of it. The furnishings for this table are as rustic as the rest of the cabin: linen green-and-white checked napkins, ceramic plates, not porcelain, but it comes together all the same.

Emma Frost is, indeed, still listening. She came here with a task set to her, and—for now, anyway—she is of a mind to follow through on it. Not for SHIELD’s benefit, of course. They could twist in the wind, burn in hell, crumble to dust for all she cares.

Like a number of nature’s other venomous creatures, she has never appreciated being dug out of her preferred environs for the pleasure and/or benefit of others. She likes her shadows. Her privacy. The well-controlled obscurity of her hidden talents. To be known is to be vulnerable, and the lessons were taught early on that places of vulnerability offer only one thing: the opportunity for it to be exploited.

She watched it in practice in her youth, levied against her. Now, as others around her levy it daily against each other. She has learned to exploit those vulnerabilities in others for her own benefit… and in service to another. Because the good agent is right about that: she is very used to being objectified and used. But also for often finding a way to turn it around. Weaknesses and exploitation. The yin and yang of power plays that make the world go round.

When Phil Coulson experiences his moment of uncertainty, tries to define for himself his relationship to her and her relationship to Stark and how far both go, there is a clinical sort of observation that occurs where he cannot see. It puts him offstep and there is a comfortable familiarity there; she is the more sure by contrast. Because for all that she cares for him—and he did earn care from her, from the files he buried to the sacrificial cry he publicly made against mutant registration, even only the registration of known criminals—she still finds herself unable to truly trust him.

Even when she wishes she could.

If the order came from on high for her to be exposed… To be put down… She still doubts where his verdict would fall. Noble men and their noble aspirations and all. If he knew everything, knew the depths of her depravity, she’s little doubt that the wells of pity and regard would dry up. She would doubtless be betrayed.

But that’s not why she teases him right to the edge, she justifies to herself as she drinks her wine. She’s doing it to see how far apart he’s frayed. To find the limits of it. To see if he’s still himself, despite a brain wave that does not belong and was not there before SHIELD betrayed him. But the care he gives might be why she relents.

She finds nothing suspicious, and so she affords him the same illusion of privacy that he’s afforded her in other ways.

“Not if you ask the right people,” she says of her wisdom, watching him set the table without so much as lifting a finger to help or apologizing for it. The final touch of the candles for the setting, however, earn him a soft bit of genuinely amused laughter. It softens her features and lights her eyes a different way, the difference subtle but there. “But I do like to think so, to the surprise of absolutely no one.”

A pause follows, and then—finally—she extends a hand to vaguely sweep over things. The stove. The table. The food. “You didn’t have to make a fuss, you know.”

"Maybe I like making a fuss," Phil says with a quirk of a smile, even as he plates the food. He sets it before her with a maitre'd's flourish, a reminder of how their friendship, to whatever depth and degree it exists, fault lines and all, has essentially begun over many a plate of amazing food.

And if this is hardly Michelin-5-star-fare, it is nevertheless hot, tasty, possessed of the comforts of family dinner tables over gleaming ones. He serves her, tops off her wine, serves himself (and tops off his own).

Plenty of him is still him. Tired and torn, disorganized and saddled with that extra bit, but still possessed of everything that makes him who he is. If some of it is in the wrong places, or turned up to a lesser or greater degree than it was, swirling in bits and pieces to the surface of some mental lake only to be submerged again, it is all nevertheless all still there.

“Far be it from me, my dear Mister Coulson, to deprive you, then.” A pause follows, and then: “Thank you.”

With the glass-smooth movements that define so much of Emma’s outward mannerisms, the blonde settles herself into the place he sets for her. The thought of a family dinner table is not what this brings to her mind—too much comfort, perhaps, and not enough public humiliation or betrayal.

No, this is a familiar, comfortable blend of pleasure and work where only the menu and location have changed. Her eyes drop to the hand she rests upon the table, considering it as she thinks.

“So, darling, tell me.” She picks up a fork, targeting her salad without an upwards glance. “How would you like to handle what’s ahead? While you sleep? To Bach and Mozart, while you’re awake?” He has not been afforded, perhaps, many choices in the long months.

She offers what she can now, a paltry offering.

"While awake," Phil says, instantly. He doesn't need a moment's thought for that. Not one single solitary moment. He's not only been deprived of choices, but any number of things happened when he was unconscious, and he's not about to invite yet another one, not even from Emma.

But there's gratitude in the quick answer as well, an acknowledgement of what she's doing.

Though he does add: "Will that make it harder for you? Me being awake?"

Because whatever he wants, hindering her is completely unwise.

“Like many things, my dear, it is a trade off. We’ll make a go of it while you’re awake and get as far as we can.” With less teasing subtext than before, the telepath looks up and offers him a rare and compassionate sincerity instead. “We’ll go slow. Take the time to get it right.”

New York is a hellscape. Where else does she have to be at present? It is an easy time to make such a promise. She might make it anyway, but the world will never know.

A bite of salad. An unrushed sip of wine. Then she continues.

“And if we need to adjust the plan, we’ll adjust the plan. What is it that they say? The sign of a true master is not the one who can succeed when everything goes right. It’s the one who can when things don’t.

Her smile turns wry. “I’m not saying things are going to go wrong, to be clear. But the mind is typically a very resilient thing.” Her hands roll beside her plate, gently emphatic as she speaks. “It seeks to protect itself. Preserve itself. It changes. Adapts.” Gets alien waves inserted into it by butchers. “Occasionally dislikes strangers. And the way forward may not be particularly straight. I just want you to be prepared for the possibility.”

It's always good not to sugar coat things with Phil Coulson. He appreciates it. The straightforward nature of it. The sheer honesty of it, in a profession where honesty is at a premium. She lays it out like any surgeon discussing the risks of a procedure, and like any patient who is not prepared to live the rest of his life mad as a hatter, he listens closely.

His mouth makes a firm, determined line. It would be a lie to say that none of this is frightening to him. The truth is he's been quite frightened since he woke up dead one morning. But pushing through is his default mode. Being cool in the face of things that frighten him is one of his talents.

"I trust you," he says. "If anyone can do this, you can."

He suspects any secrets of SHIELD's he could have inadvertently dropped have been wiped from his mind. He surely can't remember a whole great deal of anything that hasn't been declassified.

"Thank you, Emma."

“Of course, Phil.”

Emma’s glass raises, and she tips it ever so slightly in his direction. “To tomorrow’s efforts,” she suggests with a small smile and a lift of her flaxen eyebrows. The polite way of saying that she has every intention of bracing herself for the oncoming work by polishing off the bottle of wine, eating well, and sleeping late.

She is not one who prefers early rising.

The praise that he offers her sits well, and—if she were for once being completely honest—she would probably have to disagree. Charles Xavier manipulates memories with more prowess than she. Jean Grey is a force of nature, the unnatural host of a cosmic fire bird. But Emma Frost is a singular entity, too.
As a teacher, as a survivor, she has learned well how to adapt to a changing field without losing her proverbial footing. Her creativity and fearlessness gives her an edge in that regard.

It’s a particular set of skills that should prove useful in the days to follow.

But these are tomorrow’s problems.

Tonight’s? The wine. The food. The company. The gentle emanation of peace that surrounds her as she subtly uses her empathic skills to soothe raw nerves.

As the Good Book says, // “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”//

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